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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Ayn Rand learned from Cecil DeMille!

In her book "The Art of Fiction" Ayn Rand on how she learned few things about the development of good story from the legendary filmmaker Cecil DeMille:

“At the start of my career, I had a valuable conversation with Cecil DeMille. It was my first year in Hollywood, I was twenty-two, and I had already developed a strong plot sense; but although I could recognise a good plot story, I had not consciously identified what characteristics made it good. DeMille told me something that clarified the issue for me.

“He said that a good story depends on what he called “the situation,” by which he meant a complicated conflict [a plot-theme], and that the best stories are those which can be told in one sentence. In other words, if the essential situation (not the whole story, of course) can be told in one sentence, this makes for a good plot story.

“He told me how he happened to buy the story for one of his most successful silent-day pictures, ‘Manslaughter’. It was originally a novel, and a friend of his wired him in Hollywood advising him to buy it for the screen. The friend included only one sentence about the story: “A righteous young district attorney has to prosecute the woman he loves, a spoiled heiress, for killing a policeman in an automobile accident.” This is all DeMille knew about the story, and he bought it.

“This kind of sentence contains all the elements of a good story—because it gives you the conflict. Once you have this much, you can tell what kind of events you must construct in order to lead the characters to the setup, and what kind of events are possible consequences. You will not grasp all the events immediately, a great many choices are involved—but you see the possibility of a dramatically constructed progression.” ~ Ayn Rand

(Source: 'The Art of Fiction' by Ayn Rand; Chapter - ‘How to Develop a Plot Ability', Page: 57)

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